Which is my way of saying I'm going to be throwing a lot of different things into this post. Buckle up and enjoy the aimless ride!
First, another wave of scammers, which I wanted to bring up in part because of one that was almost good enough to fall for- an e-mail from "Comast/xfinity" that notified "dear customer" that something had went wrong with their last payment, and would you click this link to see how to fix it. While Laurie called comcast to determine for sure our suspicions, I did my tried and true discovery tool- click the reply button. The top blue bar gave me the one word confirmation I needed- "Cyrillic". Another Russian scam, and a damn good one.
In another, Mathew Goora of the Benin Republic advises me that since he can't send the funds that ' I confided with him about' through Western Union, he has literally been moving heaven and earth to make sure I don't lose them. But I'm going to have to send him a $185 "clearance fee" to get my... oops, I neglected to notice he didn't even tell me how much it is he's protecting from the forces of evil for me.
Also, Mrs. Farida Waziri informs me that she was told by Mr. Gershom Shapiro that I was dead and he wants to be my next of kin over another unnamed amount. Gersh, ol' buddy, knock yourself out.
Next, I want to mention some famous deaths this week. Two of them, Jerry Lieber and Nick Ashford, I'll be spending a little time on tomorrow's Time Machine discussing. The other was the apparent suicide of former Baltimore Oriole Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan. Mike was part of a great O's pitching staff that put them in the thick of the AL playoff race year after year. Now that baseball is all about the Yanks, red Sox, and Phillies and their piles of money, the Orioles have had a long stretch of hard times, and Mike worked to try to alleviate that as a GM from 2002-8. Sadly, many commenters on CBSSports.com seem to think that his failure to salvage the team is what led to his death. Maybe that had a small part in things. But I have to believe that for a man with a wife, 3 kids, and a good career in broadcasting and the respect of fans and colleagues alike, there has to be something more than that to make you put a gun in your mouth and blow your face off. What, I don't know and don't need to. His demons, his own. I salute a fallen hero and pray for the family left behind.
Moving on, I saw last night a lady being interviewed by CBS, crying her eyes out because she was having trouble evacing from Hurricane Irene, days and miles away but 'certain to be the east coast's Katrina.' It appalls me that the media feel that they need to add enough hyperbole to any news story to sell it: any world leader can become a Hitler, any thunderstorm a Katrina, any vent of sulphur in Iceland a Krakatoa. Let me tell you what Katrina means to me.
No, I was not there. I was on vacation that week and had recently discovered the weather blogs on Weather Underground. We watched all that week as Kat worked her way across Florida, through the Gulf, getting bigger and more monstrous with every hour. Many of us- myself included- sent messages to government officials, newspapers, and other media as we watched Kat's forecast models converge day by day on New Orleans. We begged them to evac. This was as early as Wednesday.
Saturday night, with the monster less than 24 hrs from landfall, I was listening to WWL in New Orleans interview Mayor Ray Nagin. His first words were, "I thought I had a pretty good handle on this hurricane thing.. " He then went on to describe how he was sitting down to supper with his family when Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center called him. "You have got to get those people out of there NOW," he was told. Despite the fact that the rest of the world knew that this was coming for a week, Nagin thought of it as no big deal until that moment. Because of his attitude, many thousands of his "constituency" - the poor, black population of the city- paid it little heed as well. Even then, with the most respected meteorologist in the nation at the time begging him to evacuate, his response was that he would have to get with the city's LAWYERS in the morning before he could start the evac procedures.
FEMA's piss-poor showing and the slow death of the levees have somewhat covered his ass in the media over the years. His "constituency" rallied behind him as he tried to blame the whole mess on GW Bush. I know better. There's a lot of blood on that dumbass's hands. A LOT. My blood boils to this day any time Katrina or Nagin are mentioned. I feel he should have been held criminally liable for this, but apparently having your head up your rectum with lives on the line isn't prosecutable. God has told me I need to forgive; and I hope you will all pray for me, because to date I have done a miserable job of it.
That ranted, the media may be right on this one. WU's Dr. Jeff Masters is the most ironclad authority on these things that I know. And if you read his blog here, You see he is NOT fooling around here. If you are on the East Coast, pay attention. DO NOT let some Ray Nagin lull you into complacency. If you have someplace to go this weekend, go there. If the Government tells you to evacuate, haul ass. And if you are a responsible official, make a responsible decision. The hell with the LAWYERS.
One last thing today, in case I haven't been apocalyptic enough. I am re-reading Susan Wise Bauer's History Of The Whole World, vol. 2. If you are any level of history buff, you need this series. She is the flat best in bringing history that is accurate, well-researched, and entertaining. Anyhow, I was at the part focusing on the plague of Justinian's time, 536 AD. I've always been darkly fascinated by plague stories, and have more than one book on the Black Death lying around. I've often thought about how very few people these days consider the plague a threat. Our sanitation and hygiene is much better; we've survived similar disasters to the ones that weakened the population in those days without incident (for example Krakatoa 1887 and Tambora). And now, research indicates that much of the European population that survived the last round did so because they possessed some level of genetic immunity to Y. Pestis, the bug that causes the disease. But keep three things in mind. #1, if you are a Christian, consider that if God wants a plague unleashed, He can overcome worldly obstacles to accomplish it. #2, if you are not a Christian, and believe in evolution, then surely you must believe that Y. Pestis can evolve a new vector. #3, from Justinian's plague to the start of the Black Death was 810 years. From the start of the Black Death, 810 years forward is somewhere around 2155. And trigger disasters? How many disasters have we been told are overdue and could happen at any time? The Cumbre Vieja volcano and subsequent tsunami in the Atlantic; the great Yellowstone lava field (which the Branch Davidians believed would erupt signalling the end of the world in 2012); the New Madrid fault, just to start.
Am I predicting anything like that? Who, me? If I could do that, I'd be hitting lottery numbers in Benin.